Patient empowerment: emancipatory or technological practice?

Patient Educ Couns. 2010 May;79(2):173-7. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2009.09.032. Epub 2009 Oct 29.


Objective: To describe the meaning of the theme of empowerment from research on health promotion in nursing from the perspective of nurses participating in the study.

Methods: Manual data analysis and QSR NUD*IST Vivo were used to analyse the data generated by individual and focus group interviews and the critical incident technique with 32 qualified nurses working in an acute hospital setting in the UK.

Results: The participants identified a number of issues related to the theme of empowerment. These included the nurse as patient informer, psychological supporter and rapport builder and the concepts of informed choice/decision making, gatekeeping, coping, patient assertiveness, self-esteem and confidence.

Conclusion: Empowerment is a complex, multi-dimensional, contested concept which can reflect a broad socio-political agenda, a radical emancipatory process or, as the findings from this qualitative study suggest, pragmatic interventions operating within the confines of a slightly modified medical model.

Practice implications: If the reader deems the findings are transferable to their clinical milieu then the implications for practice relate to the need for careful consideration about empowerment in relation to operational definitions for practice, how terminology and related intervention is contextualised and the relationship between pragmatic empowerment and the medical paradigm.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse-Patient Relations*
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital
  • Power, Psychological*
  • Qualitative Research
  • United Kingdom